Tone and Projection

Try it:

Make a hum­ming sound.
Try it with mmm­mmm…
Try it with nnnnnnnnn…
What is the dif­fer­ence? Where do you feel the vibration?

Now we will use the E vowel. E is a very res­o­nant vowel sound that is easy to feel. Observe where you feel the vibra­tion. Try to pin­point where the most vibra­tion is hap­pen­ing. It may move around.

Try the same exer­cise on a dif­fer­ent vowel.

Once a singer can feel the inter­nal res­o­nance of the vowel they learn to bring the sound for­ward and res­onate outward.

Try it:

Sus­tain a rolling R sound
Sus­tain a rolling B (chil­dren make this sound when they are play­ing motor boat; it is made entirely with the lips)

Add the A vowel after the rolling R or B. You should feel your lips vibrat­ing and the pro­jected for­ward feel. This is a for­ward vowel.

When singing pop music many stu­dents have issues blend­ing their chest and head voices. Work­ing with tone and res­o­nance helps this. I have stu­dents start on a rolling R in their lower reg­is­ter, get a good breath and then slowly slide up a 5th. They slide between the chest and head voice. In order to make a smooth tran­si­tion you have to be using proper breath sup­port. Once you can do it with the rolling sounds try it on an E vowel. Note that there is a more detailed descrip­tion of this exer­cise in the REGISTRATION section.

When singers are learn­ing a song I pre­fer that they learn the melody using a pure vowel sound, and slide from note to note, focus­ing on inner and outer resonance.

Many singers think that pro­jec­tion means get­ting louder — and con­se­quently they raise the inten­sity of the tone when increas­ing vol­ume. My father is hard of hear­ing. I remem­ber him teach­ing me about pro­jec­tion. One need not yell to be heard; one just needs to direct one’s voice. Just like an actor that can fill an audi­to­rium with what seems to be a whis­per. My brother and I once did pro­jec­tion exper­i­ments and found that we could be a ¼ mile apart and project our speak­ing voice to hear one another — instead of yelling to the other person.

Try it: Next time you are prac­tic­ing look out the win­dow, or across the room. I look at the bench on the hill­side out­side my prac­tice room. Imag­ine a per­son or find an object a fair dis­tance away, and direct your sound to them/it. Do not get louder, but sing so that per­son can hear. Sing with a speak­ing tone. Sing to them in a whis­pery tone.

Did the visu­al­iza­tion help?

Singers with­out for­mal train­ing ben­e­fit greatly from basic clas­si­cal tech­nique, but many stu­dents that have some for­mal clas­si­cal train­ing (or grew up singing in choirs) strug­gle with the dif­fu­sion of tone in pop music and may con­fuse pro­jec­tion, vol­ume and inten­sity. When one is singing into a micro­phone the purer tones, and cer­tain types of pro­jec­tion, can sound harsh. Ampli­fi­ca­tion changes many things. I have cre­ated a series of exer­cises to help dif­fuse tone, with excit­ing results.